Nearly 400 protesters attended the Kill the Bill demonstration at The Pavilion on The Meadows on May 1st. This demonstration was held to protest against the Tory government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Amongst other things, this bill targets organised demonstrations following Extinction Rebellion, Black Lives Matter and the police attacks on the women’s vigil at Clapham Common, after the murder of Sarah Everard, for which a police officer has been charged. As a consequence, more than half the Edinburgh demonstrators and speakers were women, including two of the three BME speakers. It was pointed out that the proposed new law provided a possible ten year sentence for attacks on property (such as the toppling of statue celebrating a slave trader, Edward Colston ,in Bristol in June 2021) compared to only 5 years for rape.
Other speakers pointed out that although the Bill did not extend here, Scotland had its own record of police violence, highlighted in the killing of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy in May 2015. The women’s prison at Cornton Vale, in Stirling, has become termed the ‘Vale of Death’, following the high level of suicides. This prison has been described by Lord Advocate, Eilish Angiolini, as “antediluvian and appalling.” Furthermore, the Scottish police already have some of the new powers in the proposed bill under ‘breach of the peace’ legislation.
A Gaelic speaker told of the longstanding oppressive record of police. They were sent in against crofters in Skye and Tiree in the 1880s. Travellers and Roma have also long suffered police harassment, and this new bill has provision for further attacks. It is only very recently that both the Scottish miners, sentenced during 1984-5 Miners’ Strike and Shrewsbury Pickets convicted in 1973, both of whom faced organised police lying in court, had their sentences quashed. A Living Rents speaker also pointed out that police have been nowhere to be seen when tenants have been threatened with violence by landlords attempting to evict them during Covid-19.
No right has ever been conceded by the British ruling class without a struggle which challenged the laws of the day. This is true whether struggling to gain security of tenure for crofters, trade union rights for workers, a widened suffrage for women, or anti-racist legislation for those from a BME background. So as one placard said “Protests R Meant To Be Annoying’, especially to an arrogant and privileged British ruling class, and to aspiring Scottish emulators.